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Back Surgery: Dangers

"In this country, surgeons perform more than 250,00 lower back operations annually- at an average hospital cost of $11,000, excluding surgeon's fees- and health officials think that much of the surgery is unnecessary." "Exploratory surgery to search for the cause of a patient's pain is...useless. You don't operate on a chronic patient unless the pain is intolerable, unless you know for sure that the pain is generated by a specific malfunction in the back and that surgery has been shown to correct this particular problem. But these rules of thumb are not always followed."

Dr. Arthur White states, "I make my living on cleaning up the messes of other surgeons who have operated prematurely with inadequate diagnosis and inadequate training."


"Lonnie Burger, a welder in Palmerton , Pa., is living with a herniated disk, the result of an accident on the job in 1987 when he slipped and fell on his tailbone.

Although a series of MRIs has shown the herniation, he is determined to make do with the noninvasive treatments of a chiropractor. Burger has monthly chiropractic "adjustments" and does exercises to strengthen the lower back.

He has consulted three neurosurgeons over the years, at the request of worker's compensation administrators, in order to keep getting payments for his chiropractic treatment." "It's mostly just an attitude check to see if you're trying to milk them," Burger said. "All three doctors agreed I should continue treatment. I'm going to work every day."

"The surgeon told me since I've been like this for so long, if he operated I wouldn't notice a difference."

From the Washington Post Health Section, April 20, 1995